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Johnson County officials: ‘No evidence’ of widespread COVID-19 transmission

Johnson County health officials COVID.png
Posted at 11:22 PM, Mar 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-08 09:08:34-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Johnson County woman who tested “presumptive positive” for COVID-19 notified her doctor about her symptoms before going to seek care.

Depending on how long she had been infected before displaying symptoms, that might have greatly reduced the public’s potential exposure to the deadly disease, which the World Health Organization said has infected more than 100,000 and killed more than 3,500 people since the outbreak started in December 2019 near Wuhan, China.

“We have already started the disease investigation to identify other contacts of this individual and we will notify anyone that we identify as a close contact who could be at risk,” Johnson County Health Services Division Nancy Tausz said Saturday at a press conference in Olathe.

Mary Beverly, the interim director of the Johnson County Health Department, stressed that the county doesn’t believe the outbreak is widespread at this time.

“We along with our public health partners at the state, local and national levels are working diligently to coordinate efforts to keep the public safe and informed,” said Beverly, who appeared at press conferences Saturday in Topeka with Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and in Johnson County. “There is currently no evidence of widespread community transmission in Johnson County or in the metro region.”

Johnson County officials said the woman who tested positive is under 50 years old, but additional information was not released to protect her privacy.

“The risk is low,” Johnson County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson said. “We’re having this conference tonight to just get the information out ... so people aren’t filling it in with making stuff up that is worse.”

Much like Kansas City, Missouri, and other municipalities and health departments, Johnson County has been coordinating among departments with the expectation COVID-19 would appear in the Kansas City area at some point.

County officials have been working on action plans with “our partners in the community, including school districts, cities, our public safety personal, emergency management, hospitals and others,” Postoak Ferguson said.

Diagnosing, treating and responding to COVID-19 is a challenge because the disease is so new, but the federal government recently issued $8.3 billion in emergency funding, including $9.9 million for Missouri and $6 million for Kansas.

“Right now, we are doing everything possible to make sure that the public is safe,” Beverly said.